Driving an RV in heavy winds

Written by on April 20, 2013 in People & Places

I’ve never been one to worry much about the weather. If I have something planned and the blow-dryed weather guys on TV are breathlessly warning us that a snow storm or some weather situation is about to cause the sky to fall, I usually scoff and just go on with my plans. Weather forecasters like to scare us and keep us tuned in for ratings. I know this from first hand experience back in my local TV reporting days when they’d scramble “storm teams” and bombard the public with 24 by 7 weather alerts and constant promos about the big storm coming.

Usually, it was much less than what was predicted.

So when we set off on this latest RV trip with weather forecasters talking about a wind advisory and breezy conditions coming in hard with a cold front, I barely paid attention.

The Roadtrek eTrek was packed, we had places to go and so …. we did, heading straight down I-75 from our Michigan home.

I could tell is was windy as soon as I pulled out of my subdivision. But as we negotiated the heavy traffic through Detroit, the “concrete canyons” nulled the effect and it wasn’t until, just north of the Ohio border near Monroe, MI, that it became apparent that the weather guys had this one right.

This was more than breezy. This was howling.

windadvisoryThey said on the radio that the west wind was gusting to 50 miles an hour. I can’t confirm that, except to say that the trip through Ohio, with all that empty farmland bordering the interstate, was a virtual tug of war. And hopes of being spelled from my driving duties by Jennifer went by the wayside as soon as the first gust slammed into the Roadtrek.

The wind blew and buffeted and the drive was two-handed all the way, made worse by wind shear from the occasional semi–tractor trailers that passed me. Most of the truckers, though, seemed to have even more trouble than we did and it was me that did most of the truck passing.

Truth told, it may have been the worst wind conditions I have ever driven in. Weather reports said the winds were responsible for lots of power outages. My Roadtrek, ten feet high on the Mercedes Sprinter chassis,  was like a sail.

But I also found myself – I know, this sounds weird – actually enjoying the challenge. It wasn’t that bad, once I adapted my driving to the conditions. The dual rear wheels on the Roadtrek eTrek also helped provide a stability that never caused me any serious worries..

Here’s five tips I learned about driving an RV in heavy winds that you may want to keep in mind if you find yourself in similar conditions:

  • Keep both hands on the wheel. The wind really does want to push you to the next lane. A firm, not too tight grip, lets you easily overcome that.
  • Keep the speed low. I usually tool down the interstate a little over 70. Much of the way yesterday, I kept it between 55 and 60. That seemed to be the sweet spot of speed for keeping it under maximum control.
  • Reduce your speed and correct your steering, especially when moving from a protected area to an unprotected area, like overpasses, or when treelines along the wide of the road vanish, or when meeting large vehicles.
  • Be very aware of traffic and the vehicles around you. Sudden gusts can blow any vehicle off course. Keep your distance from all other vehicles.
  • Take breaks sooner than normal. We stopped about every other rest area. There’s a lot of stress in driving while fighting the wheel. Spelling yourself for 10 to 15 minutes every hour or so really helps.

By the time we crossed into Kentucky and began heading directly west along US-71, the winds began to diminish. When we hit Louisville, they were no longer a factor. I think we just drove out of the weather pattern that hit the upper Midwest.

We spent the night in a  neat and clean place called Grandmas RV Resort, right along i-65 in Shepardsville, KY,. The spaces are all pull-throughs, 50 feet wide and 70 feet long, with full hookups except for cable. To the east is a pasture where curious alpacas chew the lush green Kentucky grass and hang out by the fence to watch all the people in their tin can homes. There’s a huge flea market right next door that draws thousands of people on the weekends and many of the spots seemed to be taken up by vendors for that. There was one other Roadtrek here, an older 210 Popular. It was all bundled up last night when I saw it and they left early this morning before I ventured out, so I didn’t get a chance to meet its owners.

The campground was recommended by Stu Kratz, an RVing friend who lives nearby. Stu and wife, Winona, came by after we set up last night and we visited for a couple of hours. I gave them Roadtrek hats and they shared a few local places of interest we should check out.

While here, we plan to take in the Bourbon Trail, a meandering route that takes in a collection of  Kentucky distilleries that celebrate the rich tradition and proud history of “America’s Official Native Spirit.” We’ll start with the Kim Beam Distillery near here.

I could have used that place last night after the wind advisory,

 

 



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About the Author

About the Author: Mike is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, and Norweigian Elkhound, Tai, travels North America in a Type B motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and frustrations of RV life on the road. He is the official on-the-road reporter for the Family Motor Coach Association. a columnist with Family Motor Coaching Magazine and his Roadtreking reports appear in numerous newspapers and publications. He enjoys camping (obviously), hiking, biking, fitness, photography, video editing and all things dealing with technology. His PC MIke TV reports, on personal technology are distributed weekly to all 215 NBC-TV stations. .

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  1. Brad in Michigan says:

    Mike, Sounds like quite the adventure! I give you credit for pushing on as I probably wouldn’t have even left the driveway! My wife and I know first-hand about the havoc strong cross winds can create and yes, it is quite scary! Last fall, on our trip home from Tennessee in our 28′ Class A, we were hit by a cross wind on US 23 near Dundee, MI. As you mentioned in your “driving tips” section, it was near an overpass that opened up the trees along the side of the road allowing the wind to blow across the highway. When the wind hit the side of our RV it felt as if we were sliding on ice. Our RV was being pushed from the right-hand slow lane across the left passing lane toward the median. Luckily it only lasted for a brief moment and we were able to keep the RV on the road. Thankfully there were ho vehicles next to us when it happened or we surely would’ve side-swiped them. I actually stopped on the side of the freeway to check the tires, steering and suspension because I thought that we had some kind of mechanical problem but it turned out that it was just the wind. Definitely a scary moment that gave me a whole new respect for Mother Nature. I now check various weather reports and look for wind gust readings before heading out to try to avoid another scare like that. Thanks for the great article and the tips!

  2. Gary Hennes says:

    Mike,
    My RoadTrek lacks one thing I had on my previous Class B – airbags on the rear suspension. I was advised at the factory – and it really worked – to “put your shoulder to the wind” in a cross-wind; i.e., increase the pressure in the downwind airbag to raise that rear corner and, in effect, lower the opposite front corner.
    The other advice I have – keep a light touch on the steering wheel, with both hands, of course. A heavy-handed “death grip” on the steering wheel is more likely to result in an over-correction, setting you up for another over-correction in the other direction….

  3. campskunk says:

    i have the luxury of staying put in windy weather – with nowhere to go and all year to get there, i usually just wait until a better day with no rain or wind to get on the highway. the sprinter vans do have a larger cross-section than the chevys and dodges, but they also have fancier suspension geometry which helps handle crosswinds. one thing i noticed on my chevy was that the rear sway bar i installed helped a WHOLE bunch. i also have airbags and will definitely try gary’s trick of pumping up the downwind side the next time i’m traveling in a crosswind.

  4. Gary says:

    Here in Wyoming wind is a way of life. It is not unusual to see or hear of tractor trailers and even trains (empty) upset due to high winds. WYDOT issues warnings and when they say “no high profile vehicles” they mean it. That is not to say I have not ventured out during these warnings—as I have learned it is not a good idea. Last time we saw vehicles and trailers lifted from the ground and flipped over. Anyway, if you got to travel decreasing speed is the key. Also, watch out for the other guys.

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